Technically, my reservation on Sunday did not qualify for the Dine LA prix fixe menu since only Sunday brunch was being served, but my friend Rabecca and I decided to go for it anyway.
I’m going to say it right now. On the strength of one dish alone, I will unequivocably declare FIG a can’t-miss dining experience.
Located in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, FIG is an airy and immediately welcolming environment. Not only did I get to sit on a couch for my meal, but the huge windows allowing in maximum seaside daylight and the towering wall o’ mirrors didn’t read as fancy restaurant but more as comfy cosy dream home.
Service was impeccable. Polite isn’t just lip service, or at least FIG hired actors rivaling Streep. We truly felt as if our needs came first. If our waiter had a choice, he would have paid for our meal just so he wouldn’t inconvenience us with any discomfort. There’s a fine balance for service — attentive and observant, but not annoying and cloying.
I don’t tend to focus much on service in my reviews because I’m usually not too bothered as long as the food was good. I make a point to mention it here because I felt the waitstaff understood that the quality of the food came first, only to be enhanced by the experience of dining. The FIG servers were perfect.
We began with a lovely french bread baguette with balsalmic butter. As you can see, I am one of the many suckers taken in by the very cute, branded baguette sleeves. Although I had grown up eating french bread with my morning eggs, as a snack after school and as part of savory banh mi sandwiches, I had become disenchanted with them since I had moved to Los Angeles.
These were not the pinnacle, but still very tasty. Yielding in the middle, yet crusty (but not hard) on the outside, the bread held the spreadable butter easily. I do not as a rule eat bread at restaurants (cheap filler) but this felt completely necessary.
Of the drinks available, I was sorely tempted by the bottomless pint offered with the egg dishes or the elderflower cocktail, but in an attempt to keep things light, I copied Rabecca’s order: the Red Eye, a cocktail of heirloom tomatoes and the “champagne of beers.” Salty, spicy, fizzy and soothing … if I had had a hangover, this is what I would have ordered.
Determined not to order beyond what would have been Restaurant Week prices, I had the middling-priced tongue tacos (pictured at the beginning of the post).
The simple description the very knowledgeable waiter provided — braised tongue, tomatillo sauce with a cactus & onion salad — doesn’t even come close to what I experienced. One bite made me want 50 of these suckers. So succulent and meaty, I wanted to embarrass myself. Instead, I just ate more.
The bright, fresh and tangy salsa was delicious, but completely superfluous on these tacos. In fact, the salsa detracted from the unctuous flavors, so I went without. I could have eaten a pound of that tongue over rice and been ridiculously, supremely happy. As it was, yeah, I was still silly with glee. I’m so easy when it comes to good food. A great meal, and I’m a goner.
Rabecca’s poblano and mushroom tacos were hearty and flavorful as well, although the salsa was a good accompaniment this time.
Speaking of accompaniments, that was a bomb cactus salad. Really. I’ve only recently realized that I’m a texture fiend, and that just yielding snap and the acid from the vinegar brought to mind a good jellyfish salad. Silky umami + Crunch tart = Hanh bliss.
Yes, bust out the glowsticks because I am absolutely raving. I love food, and when it’s apparent that the person creating the food does also, I’m ecstatic. Chef Ray Garcia focuses on the best, freshest ingredients, prepared in simple ways that exploit their flavors. It really doesn’t take more than that. No foam, no deconstruction, no vertical towers of tiny food discs.
FIG isn’t a new find in the culinary scene, but it’s deserving of rediscovery by those who’ve never crossed its threshold. I want to do just that: introduce others to the taste experience and revel vicariously through their satisfaction. Of course, I’ll be eating right alongside them.
I won’t pretend that this is an everyday affordable meal, but the odd brunch followed by an equally luxurious Thai massage or nap on the beach sounds like what my next well-deserved, uber-indulgent Sunday will be. It’s meant to be a treat, and dammit, I’m worth it.
in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
101 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica CA, 90401